When Daft Punk announced their split in February 2021, it brought down the curtain on one of the most distinctive, celebrated, and influential partnerships in electronic music. However, Daft Punk were merely one part of a rich seam of underground music produced and curated by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, both of whom have numerous solo projects and collaborations under their belts.
Bangalter has dance music pedigree — his father is Daniel Vangarde, who worked in the 1970s and 1980s as a songwriter and producer on various disco hits — and these roots are apparent in much of his work. But club tracks sit alongside film soundtracks, and more recently, ballet scores. Though it transcends genre and defies easy categorization, Bangalter’s work still retains an idiosyncrasy that makes his music instantly recognizable.
Bangalter’s music evokes glamour, even at its grittiest. His record label Roulé was responsible for some of the most infectious and influential house music of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and its appeal straddled the deep underground and the stratospheric mainstream — Bangalter’s Trax On Da Rocks EP is raw, Chicago-inspired house, while the instantly recognizable Music Sounds Better With You by Stardust sold 1.2 million copies in the UK alone, and is lodged into the brain of anyone listening to popular music in the late 90s. Together, a collaboration with DJ Falcon, produced the 12-inch So Much Love To Give, a gloriously, blindly euphoric track that epitomizes all that is great about French house music.
Even at its roughest, there has always been a sophistication to Bangalter’s work, both with Daft Punk and beyond. The Roulé logo is a roulette wheel, and is reflective of popular culture and the zeitgeist — online casinos have soared in popularity across the world, cleverly meshing technology with iconic imagery, where players can enjoy card table games or spin roulette games for real money. This draws a parallel with Kraftwerk — the seminal pioneers of electronica also used their synthesizers and vocoders to evoke the romanticism of 20th century Europe in an even more explicit way.
Bangalter is also known for his collaborations with controversial director Gaspar Noé, for whose extreme and divisive film Irreversible he provided a soundtrack — two tracks featured, “Outrun” and “Ventura,” were previously released on Roulé. Noé’s equally provocative Climax (2018) featured two tracks by Bangalter, alongside other electronic music luminaries such as Aphex Twin, Dopplereffekt, and Giorgio Moroder.
In 2017, he contributed a track to Siegfried’s Riga (Take 1), an acclaimed Latvian film noted for its stunning visuals, emotive acting, and freestyle approach, as much inspired by jazz as by film. In another link to cinema, Bangalter is married to French actress Élodie Bouchez, who came to prominence in Europe in films such as Les Roseaux Sauvages (Wild Reeds, 1994) and La Vie Rêvée des Anges (The Dreamlife of Angels, 1998) before appearing in American productions such as Alias and Happy Few.
Last year Bangalter began making music in collaboration with renowned choreographers such as Hofesh Shechter, beginning with the French film En Corps. 2022 also saw him provide music for Mythologies, a ballet choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj. In a radical departure from his previous work, the music is entirely orchestral, drawing influence from Baroque and American Minimalists.
Thomas Bangalter is responsible for some of the most highly acclaimed electronic music of the last four decades. Even with the major success of Daft Punk and Stardust, he has remained true to his underground roots, and highly respected by all in dance music. A move into modern classical music is an exciting new development in a rich and fruitful career.